8.3 Policies and Implementations at the National Level
Adjustments of domestic laws in order to proceed with issues related to the problems of trafficking in children were present in every society in the Mekong basin countries. A variety of them were drafted in order to comply with CRC’s provisions. Among them is the Rendering Aid and Protection of Children Act which specifically addresses child labour in begging, prostitution and other harmful activities in Thailand.
The laws and regulations practised generally have limitations and sometimes weaken successful enforcement process. Some frameworks of penalties are vague. Conviction and its process is not by a set standard and often different every time depending on the law enforcement officers and trial personnel. For example, the penalty for each criminal act varies from minimum to maximum depending judgement of individual authorities involved in the case. This in return causes misunderstanding in justice among general people. Also, the laws sometimes make it difficult for its execution. For example, it is unlawful to recruit children under the ages of 13 - 18 years old (varies from country to country) into any occupation unless they get permission from their parents or sponsor. The law itself provides opportunities for conducting the trafficking of children. Law enforcement officers can sometimes lack or have limited knowledge and ability to provide services that are victim-friendly.
Specific details of policies and implementations at a national level for some Maekong basin countries are as follow.
(1) Thailand
First, Protective and Combative Policies and Implementation on Prostitution Problems: In theory, the policy drafted by all governments have convinced their people that they will seriously prevent this country from the child prostitution problems and will take the very tough measures on those people or group of people who make such exploitation. In practice, crucial implementation rarely happened. Several tragic events have been brought to child prostitutes. Several movements have been taken place by children's and women's non-governmental organization (NGOs) network, that have been demanding the government to stop the problem. After November 2, 1992 when the government of Chuan Leekphai (1992-1994) announced before all the provincial governors that there must not be child prostitutes in Thailand anymore, campaign to protect and combat the problems were decisively started in many parts of Thailand. Since then, many action plans and implementations both on protecting and combating the child prostitution have been precisely carried out. Also, there has been co-operations with the NGOs to resist the sexual exploitation of children.
Second, The Establishment of Task Forced on Migrant Children: Founded by eight children's organization on June 1996, the Task Forced on Migrant Children aims to help those foreign children who get into trouble like cheated for wages, abused, ill-treated, raped, sexual exploited. It is also seeking for chances to sending these migrants children back to their homeland. After working through a period of time, it was found that the child problem was actually the national problem to be handled with in national level. Bilateral and multilateral Co-operations is then needed in order to get the response from the other countries. As the result, the new task forced were set up, in the name of 'Thai Coordinating Committee on Migrant Children.' The function of the task forced is to draft the action plan for foreign children, and then implement the plan to protect, secure and develop migrant children living in Thailand, not only in theory but also in practice. The task forced will coordinate with children's organizations in the place of origin, to convince them and seek for their helps as dealing with the problem.
Third, Policies and Implementation on Protecting and Resisting the Exploitation of Child Labour: Formerly, the governments had tried to reduce the chances of children entering in workforce market before time and of girls in selling sex. They enacted the law that extended the educational terms from six to nine years. The Department of Social Welfare has conducted campaigns continually to decrease the number of Thai child labour and child prostitutes. While the plans for Thai children was achieved in some degree, the problems of migrant child labour has been increasing, especially in selling-sex business and other business that Thais reject to do. Consequently, it seems that the child problems is critically broadening, as the Thai government does not implement any precise policies on such problem. The exploitation of child in factories, ill treatment, oppression are still going on.
Fourth, Implementations on Control and Decrease the Number of Beggar: The Department of Social Welfare has carried out the expeditious policies to control and decrease the number of homeless children and beggars throughout Thailand. Welcoming to the 1998 Amazing Thailand Year, the department has joined hands with the tourist policemen in decisively arrests those homeless children and beggars. Moreover, they do seriously judge and punish any foreign gangs that force the migrant children to beg for money in Thailand. The department provides the Department of Social Welfare at Nonthaburi province to shelter for those homeless children as primary helps before contacting their relatives in their place of origin.
(2) Lao PDR
For Lao PDR, given the cooperation between Thailand and Lao PDR where citizens of the two countries were originally permitted to cross border freely, the country has currently placed restrictions on the travelling of children. According to the new migration law, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to travel alone, and once travelling, they must be accompanied by up to 4 adult guardians.
Estimated number of Lao children in Thailand is several ten thousand dispersed along Thailand-Lao boarder provinces. After the Thai Government acknowledged the presence of illegal migrants from neighbouring countries. There are more than ten thousand workers from Lao registered at that time (see Table 4.1 in Chapter 4). The regulations and the number of Laotians registered to work in Thailand has woken Lao’s Government up and realize the situation. They therefore have started a plan to gather information for a better understanding of what actually happened in each of its 17 districts. This action has led to a better result of cooperation in the past 2-3 years. In addition, the Government has let NGOs whose work regards children welfare openly attend the conferences or convention to prevent illegal migration to Thailand. The country also has policy and preventive measures of illegal labour movement to Thailand as the following detail.
First, The Follow Up and Presentation of Migrants Workers in Each District: Officers at executive level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has estimated most of Lao labours in Thailand are from Savanakhet, Khum Muan, Bo Kaew, Champasak, and Vientiane which are opposite Thailand. Most of them are between the ages of 13-19 years. Their work pattern is seasonal migration. In case that children have relatives in Thailand, there will not be any problems. The government has a strong concern upon the groups that are deceived from the origin or are seduced by the traffickers or agents to work in the inner cities which are very difficult to follow and help. The executive immigration officer has told the research that they have requested a cooperation from every district headman to report the movement that who leave the district, to where, and to do what. Especially to keep track of the number of children in the district, the number of them who leave the district, the number of repatriates, the number of working age people, unemployment rate, and other relevant information.
Second, Suppression Policy: The government has a policy for every district headman to suppress illegal migration to Thailand. They provide an education for children, young adults, and parents to realize the actual benefits and pitfalls of going to work in Thailand as illegal immigrant workers. They have explained the dangers that may happen to the children such as deception, rape, physical abuse, and other forms of violence. They have arranged to bring individuals who have experienced violence to tell their stories. Moreover, the Lao government cooperates with Thai government in enforcing strict regulations at the checkpoints.
In 1997, Lao government has proposed a policy to technical cooperation committee in the agreement to solving illegal migration problem. If Thailand is in need of Lao labourers, there should be a formal agreement between the two countries for the benefits of both of them. For the children under 18 years, they will be prohibited to work in any forms of labour except minor housework. The Director General of Lao’s Police Department has commented that total prohibition is almost impossible. There should be a promotion and expanding the educational opportunities continually. Some responding projects of governmental and private sectors are as follow.
First, The Research Project on ‘Migration and Trafficking in Children and Women’: This project is organized by a Federation of Lao Women in cooperation with GAATW in the training of qualitative data collection. They also organize convention with governmental sector concerning this problem. This research project as of December 1997 is in between data collection. This research will be a significant factor that help any related officials to understand and realize the actual status of trafficking in children and women, and the impacts on children and sending communities.
Second, The Children and Women’s Quality of Lives Development in Vocational Training Project: The Federation of Lao Women has been granted form CIDA and UNICEF for the promotion on developing occupation and health for women. The Federation of Lao Women believes that this will solve the problem as well as suppress the trafficking in children and women. Although it is a long-term project, the action taken in sending communities is a long-term result.
Third, The Cooperation among Thailand-Lao Boarder Provinces in Providing a Permission to Cross Border: This new migration card will be expired in a year. Importantly, there will be a photograph of the cardholders attached. This card will permit cross boarder at the assigned checkpoint with the staying limitation of 2 nights and three days. Children under 12 years of age are not allowed to travel alone. They have to be accompanied with adult guardian no more than 4 persons.
Fourth, Vocational Training Projects: Labour department has a policy of promotion and providing jobs within the country. There will be several vocational training programs in various areas to prevent migrations of young men and women.
Fifth, Prevention of AIDS Spreading Projects: The National AIDS Committee under the provision of Ministry of Public Health Department is considering the way of prevention AIDS spreading for high risk groups such as bar workers, repatriates, and commercial sex workers. In case of illegal migrant workers, if they are arrested by Thai or Lao officials and sent back to Lao, they have to give sample blood test for HIV and other possible diseases before attending the training programs and returning to their communities.
(3) Myanmar
Myanmar has also prohibited women under the age of 25 years old from traveling to Thailand without a legal guardian. This regulation has however given business opportunities for trafficking agents to profitably service women under 25 from Myanmar who desperately need to leave the country for Thailand. Other child trafficking prevention strategies set forth in Myanmar includes:
First, Education and Vocational Training for Children and Women: These projects are being held by several governmental organizations claiming to prevent children from being deceived and trafficked for labour purpose. For instances, The Ministry for Progress of Boarder Areas and National Races and Development is responsible for vocational training centers in boarder areas, Department of Social Welfare provides domestic science training for children and women, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, an NGO which is established by government, aims at developing the areas which are inaccessible by other organizations. Moreover, Myanmar’s government has also received assistance from international organizations such as UNICEF in order to develop the quality of children lives. World Vision International Foundation is permitted to establish non-basic educational centers for homeless children residing in big cities. The Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (AFBX) supports the government with vocational training projects.
Second, Set up Strict Regulations in Controlling Legal Women Migration especially in Eastern of Shan State: The Ministry of Immigration on Population has prohibited women between the age of 16-25 years from traveling to Thailand without legal guardian. However this regulation has been a better chance to make money for the agents because the women under 25 who need to work in Thailand have to spend on their services. They prefer crossing the river to crossing the boarder at Tachilek-Mae Sai checkpoint.
Third, Plan of Organizing a Committee Suppressing Trafficking in Children and Women: This committee holds a status as a sub-committee of Violence Against Women under the National Committee for Women’s Affairs. This project has occurred after Myanmar attended a regional conference on ‘Illegal Labour Movements: The Case of Trafficking in Women and Children’ in November 1997. The role of this sub-committee has not yet been clarified. In December 1997, the executive government official has explained to the Thai research team that it is in the approval process from the government. Ii seems that the effectiveness of prevention of trafficking in children and women project is unlikely to succeed. Because it is the problem solving at the wrong cause. Myanmar’s government has never accepted the actual cause of problems, which has been a push factor of inflows of their children and women to other countries.
Fourth, Response to the Problem of AIDS Spreading: The Ministry of Health has formed a Township AIDS Committee and AIDS Support group in boarder cities such as Tachilek and Koh Song. The volunteers were trained to distribute information concerning AIDS as well as take care of infected individuals. National AIDS Program has provided consulting services in every state and division and has a project which will put an emphasis on eastern Shan State. In Koh Song the Government requires every visitors to report themselves to the officers and to attend AIDS education program which is held every weeks. The Government has confirmed the success with a decreasing number of HIV infection rate in some areas. Moreover, they is a report as of May, 1997 that only 4-5 women have been notified in boarder areas. However the assessment of the mentioned program in details is highly recommended. The reason is that children and most of the labourers working in Thailand hardly understand AIDS at all although they said that they have attended the training program provided by the government. For them, AIDS is a cause of death which is transmitted by drug users and prostitutes only. Moreover, they believe that only the persons working in Thailand can be infected by this disease. Inadequate information and negative attitude tends to lead to negative consequences rather than positive results.
World Vision International, an NGO, has a project to promote a prevention of AIDS along boarder areas. The project has expanded to the target cities which are the sending origins of labour to Thailand. It seems that the World Vision’s project is the only realistic project in accepting the fact of migration in Myanmar. Since they have educated for preparation of persons who are likely to be migrant workers.
Fifth, Rehabilitation Activities: The department of social welfare has established a school for educational, vocational, and social rehabilitation of children and women. The school is divided for young women and women over 17-18 years of age. The government claimed for the success the program according to the incident that 95 women working in Thailand have returned home in 1992 as a result of coordination among public health department, social welfare department, police department, and immigration and population department. Moreover, the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (AFXB) has cooperated in planning, consulting, and social support. However, the government ignored several researches indicating the number of children and women who are lured to bonded labour in the neighboring countries has reached several ten thousand.
(4) Yunnan, China
For China, the domestic trafficking had gained very much national attention from the central government in the previous decade, and the transnational trafficking is beginning to arouse some concerns from the central government quite recently according to the Yunnan study. To some extent, involved government agencies such as the National People’s Congress, the Public Security Bureau, the Education Committee, the Financial Administration, the Department of Public Health, and the Women’s Federation have cooperated and collaborated in the work to combat the trafficking. Decent budget was allocated, and necessary staff were offered the time to work specifically on the issue of trafficking in women and children. Several amendments have been made to the Constitution to appropriately address the problem in a timely way.
With special reference to Yunnan Province of China, the Office for Combating the Trafficking in Women and Children in Yunnan was also established to especially combat the problem. They also have their own counterparts in all the 17 prefectures in the province. The Office had made remarkable achievements, which could clearly be seen from the sharp reduction of the domestic trafficking. Since the combating against trafficking is considered related to the public security and crime, the responsibilities of this office are now handed over to the criminal police in Yunnan Province. Besides the action oriented approach, there are also academic and research based type of work to combat with the problem as well. Researchers in Yunnan Province have studied patterns and routes of trafficking and the phenomenon of trafficking in women and children and designed possibly prevention programmes. The country’s aim was actually to motivate local communities and their members to be actively involved in locating the root cause of the problem and potentially prevent it from happening.
(5) Cambodia
Trafficking of women and children is a rather new and an uncoordinated topic for Cambodia. Concrete plan of action for the country is therefore not available. However, information as follow was obtained during the country review.
First, The Government Programmes and Institutional Framework: The Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC) is currently drafting the Five Year National Action Plan Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. This national action plan will focus on the prevention, national and local education and community mobilization, law and legal processes for prosecuting offenders, law enforcement and development of special protection services and procedures, recovery and reintegration / resettlement.
Second, A Sub-Committee on Child Labour and other Forms of Commercial Exploitation of Children of the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC) was established in 1997 following the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ILO and the Government of Cambodia. This sub-committee’s main role is to ensure the implementation, monitoring and evaluating of policies and programmes related to child labour and other forms of commercial exploitation of children.
Third, The Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour and Veteran Affairs (MSALVA) has a key role to play in any meaningful programmes addressing child trafficking with the Ministry of Interior. The enforcement of the relevant legislation on trafficking/kidnapping in Cambodia is problematic. Up to date there are very few cases have been brought to court for violating existing child trafficking. The MSALVA is not a priority ministry. Moreover, there is a clear lack of resources both human resources and financial resources to fulfill its enormous tasks. The legal system is weak overall.
Fourth, Prevention Programme: Prevention is a key to the management of the situation of victims of trafficking. Preventive measures are comparatively cheaper than intervention or rehabilitation. It is therefore crucial in Cambodia since the government has faced with the financial constraints. Preventive programmes are usually simple and do not require as much technical expertise which could result on some cost saving.
Several Non-governmental International Organizations have been actively initiated awareness about extent and nature of trafficking in Cambodia. These programmes included awareness raising through radio, television, leaflets and posters aimed at informing to public about the realities of life in brothel, or depict girls in distress circumstances and where intervention can be provided, and many workshop on the subjects have been organized with participation of children and adults. Many programmes for women and girls are developed and implemented by NGOs, including literacy and basic education, counseling, medical care, hygiene education, vocational training and small credit and income generation programmes. Another protection and assistant programme is ‘ peer counseling ‘ in red line areas. A few NGOs are providing education to a team of prostitutes about basic health and hygiene as well as other support to sex workers. For instance, ECPAT-Cambodia was set up in 1994 to closely work in collaboration with ECPAT international. There are two main areas of work for ECPAT :
(a) to raise awareness of the issue of child trafficking, prostitution and sexual abuse in Cambodia.
(b) to cooperate with government to enforce the existing laws to ensure a better protection of children from prostitution, sexual and trafficking.
Fifth, Community/Country Reintegration Programme (CRP): The main thrust of this philosophy for rehabilitation of victims is that the reintegration of victims has priority over the creation of a special environment and special services as well as follow up for victims. From this presentation point of view Community/Country Reintegration Programme(CRP) uses resources within the country/community to achieve social reintegration of victims of trafficking (mainly trafficking for prostitution). The resources included victims themselves, their families and members of the community. In the Cambodian context, such extensive linkages are beginning to be developed. CRP in Cambodia favor provision of services and follow up visits and business consultation in victims' houses and business stores. The overall philosophy of CRP is that victims themselves are the ones best equipped to decide what the best for them, and how best for other to assist
(6) Vietnam
In recent years, the Vietnamese Government has paid more attention to issues of child trafficking, prostitution, and child labour. Policies and resolutions have been developed and incorporated as part of the national plan and program. All of which is to objectively aim at prevention of trafficking in children. The government has encouraged and created condition for different organizations and individuals in the country and abroad to contribute to protection of and care for children. Vietnam attended the conference of ‘The rights of children girls and the protection against sexual exploitation for them’ conducted in India from 8th to 10th December 1997. The conference discussed on the multi sectoral plan of action aiming at fighting against all forms of sex exploitation, and child trafficking according the international chain of prostitution. Being one among the 6 members of the subregional of the Mekong basin, Vietnam agreed to establish a national committee for the coordination of activities aiming at stopping the trafficking of women and children in the region.
Also since child trafficking in Vietnam increases in quantity, spreads wider in geographical areas, and the organization of it has been more complicated, the country has responded to this serious evolution and complicated situation. The President of the RSV declared amendments of some related stipulations to coincide with the needs to protect children from being trafficked. Annually since 1994, the Supreme Court has judged hundreds of cases of women and children trafficking. Meanwhile, the Government also has had supportive programs for the fight against the women and children traffickers through jobs generating programs, occupational training and reintegration into the communities.
The Central Women's Union has support programs for returned victims. The organization also conducted a seminar on the ‘Prevention of the women trafficking in the Central and Southern provinces of Vietnam in September 1997 to find solutions of the struggle against the women and children trafficking. Other NGOs also have a great role in the fight for the prevention of the phenomena of trafficking and sexually exploiting children. CGFED was one among them to implement a study project on the : Searching measures for the prevention of children prostitution evil in 1996- 1997.
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